From Fantastic Day to On Your Bike, with Nick Heyward and Haircut One Hundred.
They began as the best mates in the world. But panic attacks and fears over the formula ended it. “THE RHYTHM TOOK OFF, LIKE CHIC ON AMPHETAMINE.”
In 1977 I’d met up with Rob Stroud [drums], and we went into Macari’s in London – I bought a white Telecaster with a maple neck and an amplifier. We rehearsed at the Ski Club Of Great Britain on Eaton Square, where I was living, then we met Les [Nemes, bass] and rehearsed in our friend Jason’s garage in Beckenham. Graham [Jones, guitar] joined in ’78, ’79. Into ’80 we were back in at the Ski Club and it was Les, Graham, Rob, and Tim Jenkins [guitar], and we were Rugby. We weren’t Haircut 100 yet but we were evolving [other names include The Boat Party and Captain Pennyworth]. It was probably ’80 into ’81 when we got the name. Les, Graham and I were living in a flat above a florist in Gloucester Road, with three beds in one room. That went back to liking The Monkees TV series and watching Help! I was always pressurising the guys to do stuff together – we thought about growing moustaches at the same time – to be a team. At that point, though, we couldn’t get gigs. I thought I’d just go straight to the people that seemed to be in charge, which was the NME, and we got a half-page spread. Things happened pretty quickly after that. We played up in Kensington and it was rammed! We just kept playing Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) over and over and over, like a jam. When Blair [Cunningham, drums] joined, we really started to sound impressive. We’d gone from playing pubs and being a bit Talking Heads and scratchy, to a point where the rhythm suddenly took off, like Chic on amphetamine. It was all starting to fall into place. The hair was right. I’d been a commercial artist and I saw that the sleeves were all gonna be stripy and different colours. Brideshead Revisited was on telly. We really liked [record label] Arista because they had The Beat, so we got [producer] Bob Sargeant and when we went in the studio we started to sound like this pop band. It was amazing! It was snowing, and you didn’t have to tell the snowflakes where to fall in the garden, they just fell in the right place. By the end of 1981 we were on Top Of The Pops.
GOODBYE DECEMBER 1982
Great things were happening, but it was hardly any time before it ended. We started to split up at a meeting at the end of summer ’82. We were in the Manor studio. Marc [Fox, percussion] and Phil [Smith, sax] had been sacked, Bob Sargeant wanted them back, I didn’t want them gone… a rift had also begun because I had ideas about working with Geoff Emerick. I wanted to progress musically and sound vaster and they wanted to stay a funk band. In the Manor, I’d started to have panic attacks. I’d gone back to live at the Ski Club, and one day I was having a pint of Guinness and my jaw locked. It was so, so, so scary, so much so I asked my dad, Can you knock me out – because he was a boxer – because I just don’t want to be thinking any more. He tried but he couldn’t. I ended up at this place in Regent’s Park. I don’t remember much else except lying there with a sweet Irish nurse saying everything will be all right, just breathe. After I kind of came round, I went along to a rehearsal. Marc and Phil were back in the band, Marc was singing and they were playing me these songs they’d written. I don’t feel it now because we’re mates, but at the time it was like a betrayal, like they’d ganged up on me, and Les and Graham were my best mates in the world. I said, “Well what am I going to do?” And they just looked at their feet. So I said, “OK, see you round,” and walked out the studio. It was a bit like Mutiny On The Bounty and I still don’t know who was Fletcher Christian. Are there regrets? Oh yeah, absolutely, ’cos you just look at it, and say, Great band! But we didn’t have management to say, no, you’re not leaving. I went to see them not long after, I think it was in Reading. It was very Spinal Tap and Spinal Tap hadn’t been out yet. We’ve played together since, and I’ve tried in a calm moment to say, “Shall we talk about what happened?” They’ve never explained. It doesn’t matter, but it would be nice to know. As told to Ian Harrison